Goat's Beard Mountain Supplies

Gear on the Edge of Washington's Frontier

At just eight years old, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies, in the tiny hamlet of Mazama, Washington, is a gear shop temple and manager CB Thomas and his wife, Micki, aim to keep it that way.

A good gear shop can be like a temple for adventure seekers. There are unmistakable signs of the wild on the weather-worn buildings that compel passers-by to stop. The old skis crossed and mounted on doors. Tattered prayer flags. Faded and torn posters in the windows from previous generations. There’s even a familiar smell – something between sweat and sap. 

I’m not talking about your town’s outdoor co-op chain. This is something so much more enchanting than a good return policy or an anniversary sale. I’m talking about the gear shops that inspired those big-box outdoor markets. 

These are the shops off the beaten path that are run by eccentric climbers and skiers. They may keep odd hours or have complicated store policies, but we jump through the hoops because those knotty pine walls and adventure veterans hold secrets to new and exciting places.

At just eight years old, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies, in the tiny hamlet of Mazama, Washington, is a gear shop temple and manager CB Thomas and his wife, Micki, aim to keep it that way.

CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

To understand Goat’s Beard, you need to understand how CB and Micki came to northern Washington’s Methow Valley. CB was working as an assistant ski patrol director at a resort in Colorado. Micki was running several outdoor shops for another company. The couple had plans to buy the outdoor shops and run them full-time until they backed out of the deal. Both of them were out of their jobs and a change was on the horizon.

“When you put together the top ten list of places to backcountry ski, the Methow was pretty darn close to the top. We asked ourselves, where’s the last place a Walmart is going to open up? And it was here.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

In 2010 they packed up their life and headed towards the snow on the eastern side of the North Cascades – the Methow Valley. Missy LeDuc, the owner of the Mazama Store, hired the couple as baristas. CB and Micki knew that their jobs at the Mazama Store weren’t going to sustain them. But the outdoor gods had plans for a new temple.

CB credits Rick and Missy LeDuc family with seeing potential in the couple’s outdoor recreation experience. Within a few months of starting their barista jobs, CB, Micki, and Rick LeDuc began planning what would later become Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies.

The LeDuc family technically owns the store and put up the money to get started, but CB says he has 100% autonomy to run it like his own.

“After putting in that initial amount of money, they’ve never had to put in a dime more. We’ve given them money every year. Every single year. We were profitable the first year we opened, even after startup costs.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

Courtyard of the Mazama Store

Named after a fabled ice formation on Mazama’s Goat Wall, Goat’s Beard opened its doors in 2012. CB and Micki’s store philosophy prioritizes relationships and experiences over high-pressure sales. Walking through the doors, you’re more likely to be asked about the day’s adventure than to be told about the shop’s latest sales promotion. The staff at Goat’s Beard are selling Mazama and all of the magic you can find in the area on foot, by bike, and on skis. The philosophy works.

“I feel like we have a pretty dedicated group of customers who come back all the time. I have people who call me from Seattle and ask if we carry something. They’ll be at REI and say they will come pick it up this weekend if we carry it. I think people want these small businesses to work.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

Inside Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

Mazama is 20 miles west of Winthrop. It’s not a town, exactly. There’s the Mazama Store which CB affectionately refers to as the center of their universe, the Mazama Country Inn and restaurant, the Goat’s Beard shop, and a literal handful of other businesses. This small hamlet is a jumping-off point for countless adventures in one of the most grandiose stretches of wilderness in the Northwest. But it’s the residents of Mazama, many of whom are second homeowners in the area, that CB credits for at least some of their success.

“I think that you would find that some locals really don’t like that west side influence because it’s bringing in money. It’s driving up prices. It’s making it more crowded. But you talk to these people who have made this their home and they’re passionate about this place. They put their resources into this place. They’re the ones who give money so we can get a new ambulance. They’re the ones who put in the extra money so we can get the new fire hall in Winthrop. They’re not selfish people who come here and close the gate behind them when they get into their palace.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

CB and Micki’s time at the helm of Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies is nearing the end. This winter they will transition out and welcome Claire and Joel Forrest as the new managers. 

When I interviewed CB for this story, one of the first things he told me was that they moved to the Methow Valley for biking, climbing, and skiing. Not for the jobs. This year, eight years after the shop opened, when snow covers the valley floor, and the road over Washington Pass closes for the season, CB and Micki will leave their jobs and spend the winter months skiing.

“I always say I’m a reluctant business person. I want to make a living, but I don’t want to get rich at this. If I got rich off of this, it means that there are too many people here. What we want is a life where we can just be here, playing in the outdoors, and making enough money to get by.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

My first encounter with Mazama and Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies was in 2015, three years after they opened. At that time the shop lived in an old cabin behind the Mazama store. I remember seeing CB and Micki together behind the counter. They wanted to know where we were headed for the day.

The Shop has since moved into a brand new building next to the Mazama Store. CB and Micki will spend more time on their skis and that familiar gear shop smell will develop and permeate the new building as seasons of adventure come and go. 

Covid-19 has opened up opportunities for remote work, and, as a result, people are flocking to the eastern side of the Cascades to buy their piece of paradise. Property values are climbing, and some trail systems are seeing more traffic. The faces of Mazama and the Methow Valley are changing.

“The big thing that I ask of people who come here is to love it for what it is. Don’t try to make it something it's not.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies is still young and has years of adventure ahead of it. And while CB and Micki Thomas head back out into the wilds of the Methow Valley, the gear shop lives on.

This story will post a few days before the 2020 election and the environment is on ballots all over the country. While the presidential election dominates national headlines, people from all ends of the political spectrum are seeking refuge in the outdoors from political fatigue. Goat’s Beard is committed to helping adventure seekers make a plan to vote. If you’re away from your home state and find yourself in the Methow Valley, stop in Mazama to vote. Goat’s Beard can accept absentee ballots.

“I don’t care how you vote. The more people who vote, the better the election is going to come out. It’s all about being active. I don’t care if you’re red, blue, or whatever. You have to participate. It’s not an excuse because you’re on the road living your dream in the van.”

- CB Thomas, outgoing manager, Goat’s Beard Mountain Supplies

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Carmelita and Bill Ellis
Carmelita and Bill Ellis
5 months ago

Just read.this article. What a life you’ve carved out for yourself and Mickey. So happy for you! What you did was courageous all those many years ago! Couldn’t be prouder for you and what you’re doing to follow a path we could all learn from!

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